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Sofia M. Starnes introduced the selection panel to the press in May. “Poetry and Jazz”; was the July event to crown the Poet Laureate of Prince William County, VA, chosen by the panel.


Virginia’s Common Ground Jazz Band improvised to the poetry readings of Laureate nominees.

I promise this post is about water and poetry.  But, first a little background…  In the early stages of writing “Memory Lake,” I sought to define the lure of the water because Lake Michigan inserted itself into nearly every scene.  The water’s endless beauty was easy to describe and its symbolism easy to interject.  But the reason for its lure proved difficult.  My heart knew the reason, but I could not find the words except to call it “that large place where the Lord seems to dwell.”


Don’t give me the mic, Guy Lambert of WPGC, you’ll never get it back..

I decided, it was a poet’s job to analyze the lure of the water.  Since I am a novelist, I only needed to show my characters being drawn to the water.  I didn’t need to tell the reader why.  Still, I searched for a poem to satisfy my longing.  Mostly, I Googled it, and was always directed to ‘the lure of the water cooler’.

Then, I met Sofia M. Stearns, Virginia’s former Poet Laureate.  She kindly traveled to Northern Virginia in May to speak at an event I had arranged to launch our county’s search for a Poet Laureate.  Every word she uttered, even in casual conversation, was like poetry.  I purchased a copy of her Laureate project, “The Nearest Poem Anthology,” not expecting to find the answer I had been seeking because it is a collection of classic poems. Google is full of such poems, though not the partner essays Sofia collected to give the poems new meaning.  All of her reasoning is beautifully penned in her Introduction where I found, to my surprise, the answer I had been seeking!  I tell you, she nailed it. Take a deep breath and see if you don’t agree….

Lake Michigan;  chilly but beautiful...

Lake Michigan; chilly but beautiful…


Two Poet Laureates of Prince William County! The selection panel chose Alexandra “Zan” Hailey and Dr. Robert Scott.

Even those who fear the ocean are likely to stand on the beach and let the water tease their toes.  Or, Held further back through dread of the unknown, we will yet contemplate the inhale and exhale of the waves, the ineffable expression of their life, the horizon both permanent and altered by the making and unmaking of each day.  Holding on to our residue of awe, we return to the quiet shelter of our homes… Both proximity and smallness are now enhanced by the trace-reverence we’ve carried with us indoors, reverence for a source and a destiny that lie beyond us.”


Zan and Robert… my two new favorite poets! I can’t wait to see what they come up with for their projects. Their awards are sponsored by The Clearbrook Foundation.

I think this should be a poem, as should the rest of Sofia’s beautiful introduction. But, I am a novelist, not a poet, so what do I know? Sofia’s tenure as Virginia’s Poet Laureate ended June 26th.  Her project took two years to complete and I highly recommend it.  “The Nearest Poem Anthology” is for that quiet read before bed.  It inspires and enlightens, a few pages at a time.  It provides the words we crave through poetry to explain the lure of the moon, the lure of solitude, and family, of love, and of course, the lure of the water.

(The Prince William County Poet Laureate is an initiative of Write by the Rails and the Prince William Arts Council.  Virginia’s new Poet Laureate is Ron Smith.  Please explore the personalized links in this post.)


The honorary position of Poet Laureate of Virginia is hereby created. Beginning in 1998, the Governor may appoint a poet laureate from a list of nominees submitted by the Poetry Society of Virginia. Each poet laureate shall serve a term of two years with no restrictions on reappointment.